Date of Award



© 2017 Julie Olsen

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Michelle Collay

Second Advisor

Andrew Ross

Third Advisor

Kathryn Hawes


Instructional coaching has been a practice in public schools since the early 1990’s and began in the area of reading coaching. While coaching has expanded nationally to include other content areas over the years, there is little information regarding the use of Instructional Coaches who are experts in the field of special education. This qualitative study, grounded in Vygotsky’s (1934) sociocultural theory of human learning and Jim Knight’s (2007) partnership theory, examines the ways in which Instructional Coaches influence special educators’ skills/effectiveness and the experiences special educators have with coaching models in a K-8 public school district. Thirteen special educators participated in focus groups and individual one-to-one interviews to gather data. Results indicate that Instructional Coaches increase the amount of time special educators are able to work directly with students, increase the time they are able to plan and prepare lessons, and increase collaboration amongst many stakeholders. Instructional Coaches also assist special educators with legally sensitive case management responsibilities, allowing participants to feel less distracted by case management duties. Staff did not feel Instructional Coaches modeled lessons on various teaching techniques but rather assisted them with the nuanced work of special education and collaboration/consultation with team members. All thirteen staff had negative feelings about returning to work as a special educator in a setting where an Instructional Coach is not present. Positive relationship qualities emerged as critical for an Instructional Coach to demonstrate in order that an effective working partnership evolve between the coach and the person being coached.


Ed.D. Dissertation